Mar 162012

A Ugandan gay and lesbian rights organization has filed suit against Massachusetts evangelist Scott Lively for “participat[ing] in a decade-long campaign in Uganda to persecute persons on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity.”  The American Bar Association Journal has the story as well as a link to the plaintiff’s complaint.

The suit is being filed under the Alien Tort Act, which you may remember has been a source of controversy of late and is currently being reviewed by the United States Supreme Court in a case involving Nigerian plaintiffs and a Shell Oil subsidiary.  More details here.

Uganda has been the center of a recent human rights outcry regarding the nation’s anti-homosexuality bill, frequently referred to as the “Kill the Gays” bill.  The proposal would punish homosexuality by life imprisonment or death.

Jul 082011



“The district courts shall have original jurisdiction of any civil action by an alien for a tort only, committed in violation of the law of nations or treaty of the United States.” 


This single sentence, 28 USC § 1350 and more commonly known as the Alien Tort Act, provides US District Courts to hear cases brought by non-US citizens on international tort issues.  The Act has been used to bring cases against United States corporations such as Coca-Cola, Chevron, and in 2007, Yahoo!


Today a Federal D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals allowed a group of fifteen Indonesian villagers to continue a case against Exxon Mobil.  The plaintiffs claim that Exxon’s security forces tortured and murdered them and their families between 1999 and 2001.  More factual information can be found in Jonathan Stempel’s news report for Reuters.


While the appellate panel voted two to one to allow the case to move forward, there was disagreement over the interpretation of the Alien Tort Act.  The majority viewed the Act as allowing jurisdiction for claims that occurred on international soil while the minority held the view that the tort in issue must occur in the United States.  It sounds like an issue that could be ripe for the US Supreme Court.